Oral health conditions continue to be a prevalent health concern around the world. According to the World Health Organization, around 2.3 billion people suffer from dental caries or cavities. But the good news is that dental caries are preventable. With proper oral hygiene, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy and happy for a long time.
What Causes Dental Caries
Commonly known as tooth decay, dental caries or cavities develop in between the teeth. It can also form on the top most part of the tooth where leftover food particles are frequently lodged. With poor oral hygiene, these areas become a conducive environment for bacterial growth.
Bacteria feed on the sugar from left over foods. This results in acid by-product which can demineralize the outermost layer (enamel) of the teeth; eventually creating tiny holes. As the tooth’s outermost layer continues to demineralize, it is unable to reinforce the dental structure. Over time, the holes get bigger allowing acid to penetrate into the tooth, which destroys it from the inside out.
How to Treat Dental Caries?
Treatment for most dental caries is quite simple, especially if it is detected early. However, a dental professional at San Diego dental clinic Bajars Dental warns that leaving dental caries unchecked for a long time might necessitate more advanced – often costly and painful – dental procedures.
Here are some of the most common treatments for dental caries.
- Remineralization – Although saliva contains minerals that replenish the lost calcium and phosphorus from the tooth’s enamel, fluoride-containing dental products can help boost remineralization. Fluoride combines with calcium and phosphate ions to promote stronger enamel. Alternatively, fluoride treatment can be applied on your teeth to treat early signs of tooth decay. This is usually done by a dental professional.
- Restoration – Restorative treatment may be necessary once tooth decay has breached the enamel. The dentist removes the decayed tooth material, cleans out the cavity, and fills it with a special compound to restore its shape. In more advanced cases of tooth decay, a dental crown may be applied to protect or cover the remaining tooth.
- Root canal – This procedure is performed if the tooth’s pulp has been infected and causing severe toothache. Usually, root canal is done to save the badly damaged tooth, instead of extracting it. The dental professional drills through the decayed tooth layers, removes the infected pulp, disinfects the pulp chamber, and fills it with dental filling.
- Extraction – In case the damage is beyond repair, the dental professional may recommend dental extraction to prevent the risk of infecting the jaw bone. Dentures, implant, or bridge may be used to replace the extracted tooth.
How to Protect Your Teeth from Dental Caries?
While these dental procedures are relatively safe and simple, they can cause a great discomfort and are costly too. The good news is that you can avoid costly dental caries procedures and protect your teeth with the following preventative measures.
Practice good dental hygiene
The simplest and best way to protect your teeth is by implementing a good oral hygiene routine. Dental caries prevention starts with your daily habit. Brush your teeth at least two times a day using dentist-recommended toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. In case you are unable to brush your teeth, you can substitute it with fluoride mouth rinse. Additionally, you should floss your teeth at least once a day to remove debris and food particles especially in hard-to-reach areas of your oral cavity.
Regular dental visits
Since early symptoms of dental caries are almost unrecognizable, dental appointments are crucial to detect them early. See a dentist at least twice a year for checkup and professional cleaning. Early detection can prevent dental caries from progressing into more serious concern. The dentist can apply dental sealants to protect the grooves of the teeth, thereby preventing bacteria from collecting in these tight areas.
Consuming fiber-rich foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables helps prevent dental caries. Eating tooth-healthy foods ensure that you have adequate vitamins and minerals which are necessary for teeth remineralization. Likewise, avoiding unhealthy foods, such as sweets, pastries, and chips, prevents cavity-forming processes.
Limit sugary and acidic drinks
Prolonged exposure to sweet and acidic beverages increases the risk of dental caries. As such, it is important to cut back on your consumption of drinks such as tea, coffee, juices, soda, and other sweetened beverages.
Increase water intake
Instead of drinking sweetened drinks, increase your water intake to flush away bacteria and maintain the healthy acidity levels of your oral cavity. At the same time, keeping your body hydrated helps your system distribute essential nutrients, which contributes to healthier teeth.
Dental caries is more common among smokers. Smoking releases chemicals that disrupt the oral cavity’s normal pH level, thereby making it a conducive environment for bacteria. More importantly, it poses harm not just to your oral cavity but your entire body. Quitting smoking protects not only your teeth but your overall health.
Although dental caries is a common health concern, you don’t want to suffer from it. Knowing how dental caries develop, how it is treated, and how it is prevented is a crucial first step towards ensuring healthy teeth. Follow these preventative dental care habits in place now and maintain those pearly whites till old age.